The new Western Air terminal in Freeport.
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
WESTERN Air opened its new $6 million passenger terminal and maintenance facility in Freeport at the weekend, the final realisation of a dream for the airline’s president and CEO, Rex Rolle, and his family.
The 30,000 sq ft building consists of a fully cushioned departure lounge, frequent flyer lounge, kids’ centre, snack bar, maintenance hangar and corporate offices. Other amenities include free WiFi service, valet parking, free parking lot facility, and bag drop off.
The airline, the largest privately-owned airline in The Bahamas, currently employs 150 people and has hired an additional 15 to 20 Grand Bahamians in Freeport.
Mr Rolle and his wife, Shandria, started the Andros-based airline 14 years ago as a family-run business and they have faced some challenges during their expansion in Freeport.
Sherexcia Rolle, vice-president of operations and general counsel, said: “This has been a very long time coming. We have been working hard at this and we are so proud that we have finally reached this point with the help of our very strong team here.”
Western Air operates a fleet of five, 33-seat SAAB 340As aircraft. “Right now we operate out of Nassau, Freeport, San Andros, Congo Town and Bimini,” said Ms Rolle, who indicated that Western Air intends to expand the fleet and introduce new flights to Abaco.
According to Ms Rolle, they strive to please their customers. “It is not about the money … it is about people, and doing something that is right for the community,” she said.
She highlighted some of the amenities for passengers, including a president’s club for platinum frequent flyer members who fly at least four times a month with the airline. “We have a kids’ area with a mini-cinema that plays children’s movies, and perks we provide are free valet parking for our platinum frequent flyer club members, bag drop off services, and free parking for everyone.”
At the opening and tour on Saturday, Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville said he was impressed with the facility and pleased that Mr Rolle had decided to make such a huge investment in Freeport. “This is a beautiful dream, and I am so glad that companies that were based in Nassau and elsewhere are now seeing the great opportunity that exists in Freeport,” he said.
“It is a clear indication that the economy is turning the corner, and this facility is creating employment for Grand Bahama,” he said. “It is state-of-the-art and I commend Mr Rolle and the entire Western Air staff for this move in GB.”
As a result of the airline’s investment in Grand Bahama, Dr Darville noted that Western Air would be moving its aircraft maintenance facility from North Andros to Freeport, where the logistics of moving aircraft parts is easy.
“I am really pleased to hear that because it would give young Bahamians, particularly those interested in aircraft maintenance, the opportunity to be able to capitalise on this fixed base operation on GB,” he said.
“I know for sure when they moved the facility here, quality AMT would be located on the island and hopefully open opportunity for training in aircraft maintenance.”